SAN JUAN, RGV – Supporters of a Hidalgo County Healthcare District have produced a “Fact Sheet” to accompany a petition that says 20 percent of the District’s tax revenues should go to local non-profit healthcare clinics that serve the indigent poor.

The document has eight talking points related to the petition, which has gone out 80 Catholic parishes in Hidalgo County. The Rev. Jerry Frank, one of the organizers of the petition, suggests priests in Hidalgo County distribute the “Fact Sheet” with the petition to their congregation.

Here are the eight talking points:

1) Does Hidalgo County have a health care crisis?

One in every three persons in the county has no health insurance, which makes Hidalgo County the most uninsured county in the United States.

Twelve federal and non-profit clinics in Hidalgo County see over 40,000 patients, all of whom live below poverty level. Eighty five percent of them have no health insurance, no Medicaid nor Medicare. More than one third of them have diabetes with hypertension and renal failure and need costly treatments like dialysis.

The clinics could treat hundreds more patients if they received desperately needed financial help. Unfortunately, they have been experiencing huge financial cutbacks because of the state’s unwillingness to implement expanded Medicaid.

2) What amount of money will the Health District receive annually and how will it use these monies?

Annual tax revenues are projected to be around $20 million. Sixty percent of this will be dedicated to health services to the indigent, 25 percent to the new medical school and 15 percent to personnel and operations of the Health District.

3) What is the Bishop and the priests’ position on voting for or against a Health District?

Bishop Flores states, “I would not presume to tell parishioners whether to vote for or against a proposed Health District in Hidalgo County. Conscientious Catholics can diagnose as to whether it is in the public interest.”

4) What then do the Bishop and the priests’ seek?

They ask that if a Health District is voted into existence, it truly gives priority to the health and well-being of the poor and that it funds be specifically directed both to attend to the most severe life-threatening and chronic ailments that affect our community, including diabetes, and high-blood pressure, and also to support much needed pre-natal care for expectant mothers and child health-care services in our clinics.

5) How do the Bishop and priests suggest that the 60 percent of tax revenues set aside for services to the poor be distributed?

They ask that 1/3 of these funds (20 percent of tax revenues) be dedicated to the nine federal and three non-profit clinics in Hidalgo County which serve an estimated 40,000 patients. These clinics provide the front line of defense against disease in our area and their outstanding commitment to serving the poor is widely acknowledged.

6) How about the other remaining 2/3 of these funds (40 percent of total tax revenues) dedicated for services to the poor?

The remaining 40 percent of total tax revenues would be used to reimburse hospitals and other health service providers on individual referrals from the Health District.

7) How poor must one be to qualify for indigent health care?

The existing county indigent health care program is restricted to those earning 21 percent, or below 21 percent of the poverty level. We need to care for more people. The Bishop and priests ask that every time the tax rate for the Health District is raised by one percent, a corresponding five percent increase in eligibility (based on the federal poverty level) for health care services would automatically be triggered in. For example, if the county ad valorem tax rate increased from eight cents per $100 evaluation to nine cents, then eligibility for health care services would increase from 21 percent to 26 percent of poverty level. Eligibility would, however, be capped at 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

8) How do the Bishop and the priests propose to give the poor a voice in the business of the Health District?

The governing board for the Health District will likely attend to the business interests of the medical community. Consequently, the Bishop and priests ask that an advisory board also be created whose primary purpose would be to assure that any changes in the District’s funding and operations take the needs of the poor into consideration.

Editor’s Note: The above photo shows patients at Nuestra Clinica del Valle in San Juan. A petition being circulated in 80 Catholic parishes in Hidalgo County seeks to secure more funding for this and other clinics in the county via a Hidalgo County Healthcare District.